Lange isn’t the sort of brand to make changes for change’s sake. It’s supremely confident in how it builds boots and could care less about the current fashion. It weathered the rear-entry storm 30 years ago, and sees little incentive in jumping on the heat-molding bus today.
But Lange understands that innovation must be served. The brand that sits still gets run over, and so Lange has gradually adapted to market realities. When the market moved to higher volume lasts, Lange responded with the RX and SX series. When hiking off-piste emerged as a viable market, Lange stepped up with its XT and XT Tour families. In the current golden era of heat molding, Lange has returned to manufacturing fundamentals to create boots that don’t beg for modification in the first place.
One way to describe the major overhaul to Lange’s flagship series, the RS and RX collections, is enigmatic but accurate: everything has changed and nothing has changed. The RS is still the pure race, no B.S. archetype of what a competition boot should fit like and ski like. The RX remains a slightly softened all-mountain boot for advanced to expert skiers who stay away from the racecourse.
But what’s changed is nothing less than amazing, particularly for generations of Lange skiers who endured considerable pain and suffering in order to win ski races. A new manufacturing method has allowed Lange to preserve the best performance qualities of the RX and RS boots while changing, well, everything else.
The key word in Lange’s latest lexicon is “dual.” Both the new shell and liner use a multi-layer construction to take race boots to the next level. The latest Lange shell for the RS and RX series simultaneously injects two different densities of polyether (PE) or polyurethane (PU) via 5 separate injection points. The result is a plastic sandwich in which one material or the other dominates, so the shell ends up with hard and soft zones. The softer areas are in the cuff and on top of the lower shell, where malleability facilitates entry, exit and a tight wrap on top.
The duality in the Dual 3D liner is between inside and outside, the soft layer caressing the foot and lower leg, and the rigid outer layer connecting the foot to the shell. The entirety is, of course, heat moldable to the skier’s foot shape, making skier, boot and ski feel like a single, integrated entity.
Before you ski the new Langes, what you’ll notice most is that they’re simplicity itself to take on and off, something one could never say about a Lange RS in years past. (Ask the next codger you see about the early generation Langes and the grown men they reduced to tears and be prepared for a 3-hour history lesson.) Once you’re on snow and pressing the edge of the speed envelope, fit issues are behind you. All you have to do now is ski and there it is: the precision, the reactivity and the purity of the snow connection you get with a Lange.
The new injection technology affords Lange the opportunity to put a little more distance between the RX and RS series, so the former is more comfort-oriented and the latter more focused on shaving seconds off the clock. On paper, the difference between the RX and RS doesn’t sound like a big deal: 3mm of extra volume will fit more feet, duh. But RS and RX, while only a silly consonant apart in nomenclature, are miles apart on snow. The RS is a highly reactive race boot, for which it makes no apologies or concessions (except it no longer has to return to room temperature to remove). The RX is a very capable all-mountain shoe, but it’s not in same league as the RX when it comes to measuring success in hundredths of a second.
As evident by both their long history and their current collection, Lange doesn’t care to deviate from what they correctly feel is their heritage and their strength. When rear-entry boots were ubiquitous, Lange finally made a feeble stab at the concept as if to prove what an abomination all such silly boots were.
The current craze is the alpine hiking boot, a trend that at first caught Lange flatfooted. But Lange quickly caught up, producing first-rate exemplars of the budding genre by not corrupting their alpine structure much beyond adding a walk-ski latch to the rear spoiler. Two years ago, Lange committed to the genre by making new, more hike-friendly molds for their top HM model, the XT, in both narrow and medium widths.
Last year Lange finally dove into the deep end of the hiking pool, emerging with the 3-model XT Free Tour series with a Grilamid® shell, polyolefin cuff, Dynafit® certified Tech inserts and a WTR sole. The latching mechanism on the spine resembles every other Lange Ski/Hike switch, but it’s attached to a wider notch in the lower shell so the Free Tour’s total ROM is 23o in either direction. The radical switch in materials notwithstanding (1770g/shell), the XT Free Tours look every inch like classic Langes. The shells that sit atop their rockered soles are monoblock construction, and all the stance angles and pivot points are pure Lange. As the true AT genre requires, the liner is a minimalist, lace-up affair.